There are times during the week when I read something that has me genuinely worried about today's generation. A lot of it stems from the attitude I get from the millennials I deal with on a regular basis.
Many times, I wonder where some of them get the idea that they're entitled to anything they want simply because they exist on this planet. I'm not entirely positive whether they comprehend the idea that people need to actually work for what they want and that something isn't going to magically appear before them because they want it.
And please don't get me started on how badly some of today's up-and-coming adults have butchered the English language, both written and spoken. There are times where I think I'm going to need a translator to decipher what they've posted on social media.
Over the years, I've gotten fairly good at picking up bits and pieces of various foreign languages. I often quip that I'm fluent in two languages — English and bad English.
However, what kids say or post these days gets so incomprehensible that I have to ask my daughters what the heck someone has written. To a point, I'm thankful my kids can help decipher what I typically think is utter gibberish.
Having said all of this, however, I am thankful that there are plenty of rays of sunshine among today's youth. It reminds me that I shouldn't necessarily judge, condemn and sentence an entire generation based solely on a cross section of this population.
After all, I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there that were convinced that the hippies of the late 1960s were going to be the downfall or saving grace of the civilized world.
There are a number of youngsters out there that exemplify the virtues that older adults have come to expect. I've had the distinct pleasure of meeting several of them.
Among the students I'd like to single out is Bailie Jewett, a senior at Rimrock Junior and Senior High School. For six months, she worked with the school resource officer there to organize a senior class project to show her fellow students the consequences of what happens when teenagers make poor decisions — something she knows happens among her fellow classmates.
For Bailie, the crash simulation was a way for her to turn a personal tragedy into something positive. It's been two years since she had to deal first-hand with a crash that killed another motorist, and it's clear that the emotional scars that she carries will remain with her for a very long time and perhaps for the rest of her life.
However, instead of saying "woe is me" or avoiding the issue, she tackled it the best way she thought possible. In talking to her after the exercise, it's clear that Bailie doesn't want her friends and fellow classmates to ever face the horrors she did.
Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting more students that have turned personal challenges to positive changes. I'm referring to the four children in Mountain Home that were selected as this year's students of the year by the local Elks lodge.
Jose Barroso, Layla Hidalgo, Ava O’Donnell and Austin Spies stood out among their peers for being well-rounded students. They weren't selected simply because they have straight-As on their report cards or are exceptional student athletes.
In each case, they have gone above and beyond what it means to be a successful student. When their peers struggle in their studies, for example, all four of them are willing to help to ensure no one gets left behind and that everyone in their class succeeds.
One of the things I think is important to mention is that some of these students have dealt with significant challenges in their lives. Jose, for example, is dealing with a tremendous loss in his life. While I know that he's still trying to put that fateful day behind him, he continues to do everything he can to be a great student and a positive example for others to follow.
In talking to him the other day before he started his duties as the city's honorary police chief, I caught him smiling from time to time. To me, it assured me that he's going to do just fine in life and won't let a personal tragedy overshadow the rest of his life.
The last teen I want to highlight is Austin Tetrault, who has spent more than half of his life pursuing his passion for football. That desire is now allowing him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play on the international stage during a series of athletic competitions scheduled for this summer in Australia.
His love of football began when he was just five years old. It was a "seed" planted by his father.
That passion for the sport and his desire to win convinced Austin's coaches to move him from the junior varsity to the varsity ranks of the Tigers' football team in his freshman year. I can't recall seeing that happen very often.
When you meet with Austin, there's something else that keeps motivating him to continue playing the sport. He's not doing it for himself. He pushes himself to be the best in memory of his father, who passed away two years ago.
Whenever someone out there questions whether today's generation — our nation's future — will be equal to or greater than today's generation, I feel confident that the answer will be a resounding "yes." I know there are youngsters out there, many of whom haven't been recognized yet, who will lead this generation into an uncertain future.
It's these future leaders that we should look to in the years to come. They have the potential and the passion for greatness. All we need to do is ensure they have the tools and opportunities to make that happen.
— Brian S. Orban